The second method, and the one that
will not be discussed in too much depth here, is what
is known as a ‘time charge’. The house will
collect a certain amount of money every half hour or hour
from all the players playing. The time charge method is
usually not used for the lower limit games, and even in
the mid to high limit games, it is not always employed.
From here on out ‘the rake’ is only going
to refer to the rake that is collected from individual
pots. This is the standard method that most poker players
are used to and will be the focus of the rest of the article.
Live poker rooms can have different
requirements of when they rake the pot and at what
percentage. For live poker rooms the percentage is usually
10% and, depending on the poker room, can have a maximum
of $3-$5. Some poker rooms also have a minimum rake that
they take from each pot, regardless of the size. For example,
if there is a 1/2 NL game and the blinds are $1 and $2,
they might take up to $3 from the pot on the flop. This
means that if everybody folds to the small blind, he/she
calls the big blind, and the big blind checks, the house
will collect up to $3 (depending on their policies), even
though they are heads up and the pot only has $4. The house
will then take another dollar once the pot reaches $40 (10%
of $40 is $4, but they have already taken $3) and, if there
maximum is $5, they will then take another dollar at $50.
Because most players realize that contributing
$2 in order to win $1 is a tough proposition, most poker
rooms will allow the small blind and big blind to ‘chop’.
This means that they can both receive their blinds back
if they both agree that it is acceptable. This has to be
done before the flop and no other players can be in the
hand. Poker rooms that do collect rake no matter how many
players there are if there is a flop, usually have a ‘no
flop, no drop’ policy. This means that if there is
no flop, no matter how many raises or how big the pot, the
house will not collect any money from the flop. It needs
to be remembered that not all live poker rooms collect rake
if there is a flop. This is sometimes regional, but can
also vary from poker room to poker room in the same region.
Online poker rake differs in several
ways. The first is that the percent of rake that
is usually taken is 5% and this is almost always capped
at $3. Not only is there usually a maximum $3 collection,
but there is almost always no minimums. In some games the
pot will need to be as large as $30 before the house collects
their percentage. In games where the house collects 5%,
because of simplicity, they can divide the amount they collect
into ‘cents’. This means on a $20 pot there
can be a rake of $0.50. For online games, there is not an
option to chop if the small blind and big blind are in the
hand before the flop.
The above descriptions of how live poker
rooms and online poker rooms calculate and collect rake
are the most common methods employed. As was mentioned,
the rules will vary, but a majority of poker rooms use the
above rules and using them as guidelines can help the poker
player (whether a novice or beginner) decide which version
offers the highest return. There are many other factors
that determine the profitability of a poker game and it
would be foolish to base game selection solely on the rake
It is fairly obvious that the maximum rake
that the house collects in live games is a significant amount
higher than online. Even if it was assumed that they only
charged a maximum of $3 the minimums are much higher than
online poker rooms. Seeing a flop with three people and
$9 in the pot ($6 after the rake is taken), for example,
creates a negative expected value that is fairly tough to
overcome. It is also safe to deduce that one pays more per
hand in rake in a live setting as opposed to online.
Even though more is raked per hand in a
live poker game, the amount that is paid per hour is comparable.
In a live game, if the average rake per hand is $3, but
there is only 30 hands an hour, the house will collect $90/hr.
When playing online there is an average of 70 hands an hour.
If the average rake collected per hand is $1.50, the hourly
collection from the table is $105.
Using the above as guidelines (based off
of 2/4 limit games) the table as a whole will pay more per
hand in live games, but more per hour in online games. This
is due to the amount of hands that are possible per hour
per table online as opposed to live.